Tribune News Service
New Delhi, Nov 21
In the first review of India’s COVID-19 response, the parliamentary standing committee on health on Saturday said the entire population of the country must be vaccinated against the respiratory virus and the government should be cautious against potential black marketing of the vaccine when it is available.
In a comprehensive report on pandemic management in the country, the committee emphasised the need to ensure the highest level of ethical and procedural standards in vaccine research studies.
“The vaccine should pass the strictly regulated route of all phases of clinical trials and the data should be made available in the public domain. The Ministry should follow a transparent approach so that any irregularity in the approval or production of vaccine is avoided,” said the panel in its report today.
It added that the Ministry should devise a plan for the availability of the vaccine and subsidise its cost for the weaker section especially in rural areas and urban slums.
“The Ministry should be cautious in its efforts to check instances of black-marketing and shortage of vaccines. The Committee recommends the Ministry to administer the vaccines according to the WHO’s “strategic allocation” approach or a multi-tiered risk-based approach. Smart vaccination may be used as an immediate strategy but subsequently the whole population should be vaccinated,” the panel headed by SP’s Ram Gopal Yadav said, asking the centre to enhance cold chain storage system so that country wide vaccination can be carried out without any hurdles.
In another major observation, the committee drew linkages between the COVID 19 causing Sars-Cov2 virus and a potential biological weapon asking the Centre to devise a strategy for ensuring safety against public health emergencies arising from bio weapons.
“The Committee agrees with the Department of Health Research that a holistic approach is needed for ensuring bio-security against biological weapons. The Ministry should also engage with agencies and actively participate in ongoing International treaties. The Committee strongly recommends the Ministry to conduct more research and work towards training and capacity building for management of public health emergencies arising from use of bio-weapons,” the panel said at a time when a global debate is raging around the origins of the virus and whether it is natural or manmade.
The US has openly accused China of spreading the virus and the WHO has constituted a committee to review International Health Regulations in the light of the pandemic outbreak.
While recommending Indian Health Service cadre to man public health emergencies the committee also asked the Centre to raise public spending on health research as a percentage of the GDP.
“The Committee strongly recommends for higher investment on research and development and innovation on health research at multiple levels to contain zoonotic virals like COVID-19 and to establish One Health Surveillance System with potential warning system of microbial spill over. The Committee notes that India’s Gross domestic expenditure on research and development is well below the world average. As per recent UNESCO Institute of Statistics data, the US spends almost 2.84 per cent of its GDP on research and China spends 2.19 per cent whereas India spent 0.67 pc in 2017 and 0.65 pc in 2018,” said the panel asking to raise this percentage to at least the world average of 1.72 pc of the GDP.